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Smart grid spending increasing

By Max Burkhalter
February 28, 2013

The smart grid makes a lot of sense for utility providers. While the technology is expensive, the potential long-term gains are considerable. Smart grid systemscould end up offering energy efficiency and maintenance gains while also contributing to operational cost reductions and more renewable resource use. Many utility providers seem to be buying into this long-term vision and are beginning to embrace the smart grid.

A recent study from ABI Research found that smart grid spending increased substantially in 2012 as utility providers made considerable investments in the technology.

Looking at smart grid spending
In 2012 utility providers spent approximately $22.7 billion on the smart grid, the study found. Comparatively, they spent just more than $16 billion in 2011. The year-over-year increase was considerable, but it is even more impressive when considering that the amount of money invested in smart grid solutions in 2012 is the equivalent of 48 percent of all smart grid spending up to this point.

Jonathan Collins, principal analyst at ABI Research, explained that there are a few unique challenges associated with smart grid development because the solution depends on a wide range of technologies.

"Utilities are investing in the rollout of a broad assortment of new applications and spending is driving new services from a wide range of vendors and consultants," said Collins. "The complexity of the new hardware, applications, and the expansive array of suppliers vying to deliver services continues to ensure that systems integrators benefit with a significant share of the spending."

The study also found that 2012 was a period of transition for smart grid investments. During the year, many utility providers decreased their spending on smart meters and began putting more funding into networks, transmissions and distribution systems. Advanced metering solutions also played a prominent role in the 2012 smart grid investment market.

Streamlining network deployment
Serial to Ethernet terminal servers can go a long way toward enabling cost-effective network deployment within smart grid systems. Terminal server systems can overcome the interoperability gap that exists between serial and Ethernet systems, an important need since many utility technologies use serial-based connectivity options to ensure consistent connectivity. While Ethernet is able to provide the reliability necessary in most cases, the signal type varies between the two and terminal servers are necessary to translate the Ethernet-based data to the serial system and vice-versa.

Perle offers a range of cost effective serial-to-Ethernet converters to help meet NERC-CIP compliance for the protection of critical cyberassets in substations. The IOLAN SDS HV/LDC Terminal Server is designed to meet harsh environments associated with Power Substations with attributes such as support for substation AC and DC voltage ranges, extended operating temperatures and meeting emission, immunity and safety approvals associated with substation IT equipment.


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